Undaunted Courage: Like Lewis and Clark, John Wesley Powell was entering unknown territory when he undertook an expedition to explore the Colorado territories--the last unmapped portion of the United States--in 1869. What started as a scientific expedition through uncharted territory turned out to be a harrowing adventure for John Wesley Powell and nine other men. In 1869, John Wesley Powell, who lost his right arm at the Battle of Shiloh during the Civil War, led a team of ten men down the Green and into the Colorado River, then through the Grand Canyon. No one had ever made the trip before. One man left before the trip was well under way; three more climbed out of the Grand Canyon when they came to believe that the chance of emerging from it alive was nonexistent (Those three men were killed by Indians). The trip was the last great expedition into the last unexplored section of the American interior and Powell's book about it has become an American classic. Full of excitement and adventure, the book also contains a clear and detailed geologic and topolgraphic description of the plateau country the two rivers traverse and of the Indian tribes who lived in the area.
John Wesley Powell completed his famous expedition down the Green and Colorado Rivers in 1869. But his life as one of America's great men of science was only just beginning. As an Indian commissioner, he became a student of the Paiute and Ute tribes, an interest that led in 1879 to the birth of the Smithsonian's Bureau of Ethnology, where he was director for 23 years. That same year he would be instrumental in the founding of the US Geological Survey, an agency which he would head just two years later. At 47 he was perhaps the most powerful and influential scientist in America. His ideas for harnessing water in the West inspired the birth of the Bureau of Reclamation and, in 1888, he joined 32 scientists and prominent Washingtonians to establish the National Geographic Society. After his death in 1902 at the age of 68, he continued to influence government science: He donated his brain to research. It's preserved today at the Smithsonian Institution.